After a short pause, we are happy to continue our series of interviews with ecommerce experts sharing their experience and useful recommendations. Today, we are lucky to learn from Kurt Elster. One of the most highly regarded independent consultants in his industry, Kurt is a Senior Ecommerce Consultant who helps Shopify merchants like Jay Leno’s Garage uncover hidden profits in their websites through his ecommerce agency Ethercycle. With one million downloads, Kurt is best known for hosting The Unofficial Shopify Podcast. You can learn more and subscribe to Kurt’s free newsletter at https://kurtelster.com/.
In this interview, he talks about how his theme development efforts brought him to be invited to the Shopify Experts program, why merchants should think twice before installing more and more Shopify apps, what is a common Shopify migration pitfall from his own experience, and a lot more.
So, without further ado, let’s turn the floor over to our today’s expert himself.
Kurt, you are a senior ecommerce consultant and Shopify Plus Partner, your Unofficial Shopify Podcast features around a million downloads, your recommendations are helping e-merchants all over the world. However, your first business attempt was selling T-shirts on eBay during your college years, right? Can you tell us about your road to ecommerce success in more details?
In 2009 I quit my job to start an ecommerce SaaS. That didn't work out. Turns out building your own ecommerce platform is far harder than this novice had thought, and getting an entire industry onboard with a then crazy idea was extremely difficult.
We needed to keep the lights so we started accepting freelance WordPress and web development work. Among those projects was a friend who owned a bike shop that asked us for help building an easy to manage ecommerce site for his shop. This was in 2011, and we’d been hearing good thing about Shopify, so we gave it a shot.
Shooting for the moon, we chose to design & develop a custom theme as our first Shopify project. This got us noticed and invited to the early Shopify Experts program. With some luck, our second project was building a Shopify theme for Bandon Dunes Golf Course.
After a few years, I made the radical decision to niche down and work exclusively on the ecommerce platform Shopify as an ecommerce consultant with a small agency team of three people (including me.)
I had a few hundred people on my email list at that time, but we started getting referrals pretty within 60 days of that announcement.
So, you’ve been working exclusively with Shopify since 2014 (correct me if I am wrong). 5 years ago it wasn’t as wildly popular as it is today. What made you prefer this platform over so many others back then and stay loyal to it now?
Running a generalist web design agency, we realized we did our best work with ecommerce clients. At that time, I decided to create landing pages for every major ecommerce platform and run ads to it. Doing that, we were able to sell projects using every major platform.
Shopify was the one where we consistently wrapped up the project and said, "Well, that was easy!" It wasn't that it was easy, it was that Shopify, the ecosystem, community, product, and support were all excellent. That's what made the projects feel easy. Very quickly we started to wonder, "Why are we doing anything else?" And decided to stick with Shopify exclusively as a result. That decision was life-changingly good.
Many Cart2Cart customers choose Shopify as a new platform for their online stores. Migration to Shopify is a perfect chance for them to start over and maximize the effectiveness of their business. What would be your top do’s and don’ts for new Shopify merchants?
The Shopify app store is alluring. It's easy to treat it as a conversion rate optimization slot machine and keep installing apps. The downside to that is the increased monthly cost it brings as well as increased load times. Be mindful of what apps you're actively using, and audit them once a quarter to remove apps that are no longer necessary.
Ok, you must have seen this one coming - have you got experience with online store migration? What are the potential pitfalls to watch for? What’s your opinion/experience with using automated migration tools?
We've migrated many merchants from other platforms to Shopify. Ensuring that the product page doesn't have special customizations that aren't present in the product description is a common pitfall. Really that's the only that's created issues for us in the past.
Finally, from your professional standpoint, how will ecommerce evolve in 5 years from now and what should merchants focus on to succeed?
It's really not that different now than it was five years ago. The technology has changed, but the core principle has not. If you respect your customers, they will reward you.
Kurt, thank you for sharing your insights with our readers and best of luck with all your ventures!
P.S. If after reading this post, you feel the inkling to try Shopify, you can easily do so using Cart2Cart test store - simply set up a free Demo migration to see how your store content might look on Shopify.